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Cornel West, Harvard Affiliates Call for University to Divest from ‘Israeli Apartheid’ at Rally

Cornel West, pictured here in a 2021 interview with The Crimson, spoke in solidary with Palestine during a Friday rally.
Cornel West, pictured here in a 2021 interview with The Crimson, spoke in solidary with Palestine during a Friday rally. By Simon J. Levien
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Madeleine A. Hung, Crimson Staff Writers

Former Harvard professor and independent presidential candidate Cornel R. West ’74 spoke in solidarity with Palestine and slammed what he called the “corporatization” of the University during a rally in Science Center Plaza on Friday afternoon.

“I just want to let the world know I stand in solidarity with my precious Palestinian brothers and sisters,” West said.

More than 100 Harvard affiliates attended the rally — which took place on Al-Quds day, an international day to support Palestine — demanding the University “divest from Israeli apartheid.”

The rally was co-sponsored by several unrecognized pro-Palestine student groups, including the African and African American Resistance Organization, Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine, and Jews for Palestine — which changed their name this semester from “Harvard Jews for Palestine.”

The event was the latest in a resurgence of pro-Palestine student activism this semester. Undergraduates have staged demonstrations and vigils, and the student governments of the Harvard Divinity School and Law School both passed resolutions calling on Harvard to divest from entities they say are complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land — calls which the University has repeatedly rejected.

West, who became an outspoken critic of Harvard following his 2021 resignation after the University declined to consider him for tenure, also used his speech to take aim at Harvard.

“We know that Harvard University, like any other institution in the American Empire, is shot through with commodification, shot through with corporatization,” he said.

The rally also featured a speech from former proctor Elom Tettey-Tamaklo, who was indefinitely relieved of his proctor duties following his involvement in a confrontation at a pro-Palestine protest in October.

A viral video of the confrontation at Harvard Business School circulated on social media and drew criticism from alumni and affiliates, including Harvard Chabad President Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi.

“We walk around this campus emblazoned with ‘Veritas’ on our doors, on our buildings, and from the lips of admin, professors, and staff,” Tettey-Tamaklo said.

“The question that we should be asking ourselves today is, ‘Where is Veritas?’” he added.

AFRO co-founder Prince A. Williams ’25 said the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — and the Harvard Management Company, which manages the University’s $50.7 billion endowment, invest in corporations that “benefit from the apartheid state.”

Williams, a Crimson Editorial editor, led chants criticizing interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76, including “Garber, Garber you can’t hide. You support the genocide,” and referred to him as “Alan Garbage.”

In response to a request for comment, University spokesperson Jason A. Newton referred The Crimson to a statement following the HLS resolution demanding divestment, declining to comment further.

“Harvard leadership has made clear that it opposes calls for a policy of boycotting Israel and its academic institutions,” Newton wrote in the statement.

Asmer A. Safi ’24 introduced himself as an “organizer,” but said he could not specify which organization he was affiliated with due to the University’s “repression.”

“I can’t say what particular organization, and the reason why that is is because apparently at Harvard my right to freely politically associate with an organization of my choice, of an idea, of the belief, of an ideology is worthy of penalization,” Safi said.

“And that penalization is exclusively also mandated just for Palestine.”

Pro-Palestininian student organizers have said that the University’s increased emphasis on protest guidelines as students returned to campus for the spring semester are part of a broader administrative effort to stifle their organizing on Harvard’s campus.

Last semester, four undergraduates, including Williams and Acheampong, were disciplined by the College’s Administrative Board for their involvement in a pro-Palestine “week of action,” and the University has been facing increased pressure from campus affiliates and Congress to crack down on pro-Palestine activism they say fosters antisemitic rhetoric.

Safi said he tried to ask Garber about divestment and Palestine at a tense iftar dinner last week, but said that Garber was “hesitant” to speak with students.

“Muslim prayers were delayed at Maghrib so that we could be made to listen to a narrative about how diversity and peace and tolerance and all sorts of flower unicorn butterfly things are important for this campus, and that will all be embodied in this glorious, beautiful taskforce that they’ve created for us,” Safi said.

Safi added that the University has sought to “hide behind” its presidential task force to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias — created alongside a similar task force to combat antisemitism — to avoid discussions about divestment and its “funding of genocide.”

“When people in that room raised their hand for whether or not we’d rather have divestment instead of a task force, he had no answer,” Safi said. “When we showed him how many people in that room — 75 out of an odd 100 people — were doxxed in that room, he had no answer.”

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on X at @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at

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